Happy Mapping!

Walking down the beach, it’s easy to lose perspective.  I live on Mustang Island – a long, skinny barrier island on the Texas coast.  When I first moved here, I’d stroll down the beach and think, “I’ll turn around when I reach that condo.”  Only for the walk to my marker stretching over two miles, rather than the half mile I’d originally thought.  The building stood out amongst the dunes, but each step – each minute – didn’t seem to bring me that much closer to my goal.

Finishing my Ph.D. feels a little like that, sometimes.  Until recently, each step did not always seem like it advanced me towards the end goal – my dissertation.  Now I’m barreling towards the end, approaching rapidly.  But I’ve been thinking and talking and writing about one overarching project for so long, it is easy to lose sight of what makes my work exciting. 

So I really appreciated getting a reminder of how cool my job is the other day.  I’d been emailing with a colleague, who kindly supplied me with some watersheds GIS data and signed off with “Happy mapping!”

I love maps.  I have a map hanging for every wall in my apartment.  One of my labmates still gives me a hard time for how giddy I was when USGS had a $1 map sale a few years ago.  A friend just yesterday commented on my notebook, adorned with a copy of the first geological map – also featured in an excellent book by Simon Winchester called “The Map that Changed the World” (which you should read).

Organic matter in the Kolyma River in Northeast Siberia

Organic matter in the Kolyma River in Northeast Siberia

 Really, mapping is much of what I’m doing in my dissertation.  I’m mapping organic matter in the giant Arctic rivers.  These maps give us information on how tributaries of the major rivers might differ; how much the rivers’ chemistry changes over the season; even how some rivers may have changed over the past thirty years.  That is a pretty cool project.  And “happy mapping!” was a nice reminder.